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I think Eric hit the nail on the head earlier when he wrote "how many [men] are in ending up either in a trade school or some sort of industrial job*?" In my experience as an undergraduate at Carleton, every one of the 20-odd 'dropouts' I knew left because they had an awesome opportunity with a local start-up, co-op, fully paid Algonquin College trades-program, or the like. Recently I had the chance to reconnect with friends who recently graduated and the main topic was quite surprising... Many of my colleagues who went through the full four years confessed that they regretted not ‘jumping ship’ to do something more 'hands-on' or 'practical' (rather than studying a theoretical discipline with no aspirations to continue to graduate school or the public sector). Seems like an easy decision when you think about it though, no? Most university students go to university because they believe (perhaps unwisely?) that it will lead to some higher level of earnings upon graduation. However, if offered your reservation wage with a real wage growth rate similar to your expectations upon graduation, before you finish your studies, why not start your working life earilier?
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@ Frances: "It's hardly a secret to anyone who's worked in an economics department: some students enrol in economics because they want to study something that seems vaguely useful, but they don't have the grades, or the mathematics and language skills, to make it in business or engineering. " I whole heartily disagree with the entire premise of this blog post! To suggest that an education in economics is easier to complete than business school is complete hogwash! Ask any number of my colleagues currently studying for their M.A. in Economics today! Many of them have undergraduate degrees in economics, some humanities, while some other have B.Comms. Throughout my experience in networking with them, and other students over the years, the conclusion has been overwhelmingly similar: the B.Comm is an un-stimulating degree, business school is for the ‘brainless’, it’s ‘boring’, ‘simple’, ‘unchallenging’, and requires nothing but tactics in short term memorization which does nothing to challenge a critically minded person! I was enrolled in business before I switched to Classics/Economics/Philosophy, and I can tell you that at least at Carleton, the business college offers nothing in comparison to the Economics department! With respect to the ‘skills’ one learns in throughout a B.Comm, I highly encourage anyone here to speak to any 4th year undergraduate pursuing the B.Comm in Ontario. I happen to know a few of them (ok sample size of only about 15), and the majority of them tell me they could have learned the material faster on their own, with better clarity/understanding, without the expense of tens of thousands of dollars… From what I understand, many of their courses are literally just “read the book” “write the exam” pay as you go credits! That is not an education one wishes to start a life on… is it? I’ll cut the rant for now… but just as parting consideration, ask your average B.Comm student what his/her hardest class is throughout their degree. In my experience it has always been one of the following: Intermediate Micro/Macroeconomic theory, Introduction to Statistics with application to Economics and Business…
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@Francis Wish I had a copy of this post (or one like it) while studying Econ 4020 last fall... Very good explanation of rational choice theory... Well done! I couldn't help but notice your suggestive tone throughout this post, perhaps best captured by your final line "the more we discover that humans and other animals are not that different after all." Am I out to lunch on this one, or are you smuggling in some animal rights argument under the guise of a rational theory post?
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@ Frances - The fundamental difference, at least in my experience, is that exporting the wealthy (say by creating a Caribbean Colony) discourages investment within families, domestic (Canadian) communities, local charities and the like. Investments such as: helping one's children secure their first mortgage, refurnishing/refurbishing an existing property within the family, volunteering at any number of local charities, investing in a grandchild's education by providing housing, income or other complementary items. (I leave the reader to imagine a host of other possibilities.) Shipping out the wealthy, in the hopes of attracting new immigrants may be alright for Canada (as I think you are suggesting above), but it may not be promising for Canadians already 'in the system' so to speak. I think many individuals may lose their competitive advantage without the wealthy supporting them; especially recent, present, and near future post-secondary students. Not to mention the new voting blocks that would form around immigrants and their communities… creating problems, I think, similar to those Patrick points out above. @ Patrick Your question seems to imply that the Government should acquire more of the oldster's wealth, a position I am not fully comfortable supporting. I do however agree with your point on the need for babymaking… for me, big families seem like excellent economic building blocks. But for the sake of discussion, in reply, I am not sure how I could encourage those with fugal spending habits to change, especially if this attitude has been their tendency over their lifetime… But there is a thought looming about in my mind, one I feel awful pointing out, but here I go: is it such a terrible state of affairs that oldsters do not spend as much as others do? Given that death is a certainty, doesn’t oldster frugality mean larger payouts, bequests, life-insurance claims and the like for others when they do kick the bucket? While I understand that boomers (and those before them) will likely live longer than any generation before, they should also bequeath the most amount of wealth, shouldn’t they? If so, wouldn’t Canada receive some kind of infusion of capital, or would this only lead to some kind of inflationary period, or some different state of affairs? Sorry for the line of questioning, it just sort of flowed...
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For anyone who hasn't already seen it, the documentary Demographic Winter ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxUD8E-qbyI ) raises issues similar to the one in this blog post. This post aroused a few ideas I hadn't previously thought of though, thank you! Specifically, "So why import a young worker, and pay her tens of thousands of dollars a year to care for old folks? Why not export older Canadians, set them up in little retirement communities in the sun?" I wonder if someone with more knowledge on the subject could enlighten me as to the consequences of exporting all (or the majority) of the wealth the aging baby boomers have accumulated whilst growing and developing themselves here for fifty-odd years... My question, I suppose, put more clearly is: would the efficiencies gained by exporting many of the baby boomers who are expected to put large strains on our economy (notably through healthcare) outweigh the spending and other investments these relatively rich individuals make domestically?
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I think you made a strong case for the explanatory power of diagrams here (hope your reading Determinant!). I agree with Jim, great post!
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@ Frances - "might [a TA] be better qualified to do it than a professor with a PhD" I do not think so, no. If the professor has a rubric that has worked in the past, then the decision to continue using it or not should be up to them. However, if the professor trusts the TA enough, which is not always the case, then they should be able to work together (see my above comment) to fully understand why the rubric is being used in the first place. I.e. what is the professor looking for? Originality (as Nick seems to favour), regurgitation (as some professors explicitly request), a combination of the two, or yet more criteria by which to evaluate a student's response? For the most part, I think rubrics are welcomed among TAs, whether they are supplied by the professor or generated by the TA (again with the professor's oversight) bears little difference to me. @ Nick - if "Marking keys are for anal-retentive Psychology and Biz Skool profs (sorry Mike)", then I argue that the non-use of marking keys are for the drunkards and laggards within academia; those who mark assignments, papers, and projects with little attention to detail, but instead whimsically grade each submission as independent of one another. As fantastical as not using answer keys/rubrics sounds, not using them rarely, in my experience, leads to an equal playing field for the students. Instead, not using rubrics/answer keys lends preferential treatment to submissions marked under 'good' circumstances (say after a bottle of red and a steak?) versus those marked under duress. @@Nick "I forget everything about the student except the exam question in front of me. Looking only at the answer to that question, I ask myself: "Was this answer written by an A student? A B student? A C student?"" Funny you mention this, exactly how do you come to the conclusion that a student is a A, B or C student by which to further evaluate them? Surely on the appropriateness and applicability of their response to your question. But if their response is appropriate and applicable, could it not further be broken down into pieces by which provide parts of a whole? If so, then they can be evaluated using a rubric, and should be, to avoid any unnecessary discrimination. @@@ Nick "Some of the TAs sensibly realised that they had to ignore it, and used their own good judgement, but others followed it diligently to the letter." I agree that some flexibility is required when using rubrics, they should be as guides to keep the marker on track. Not THE set list of criteria by which the submission is objectively graded by. Keeping it flexible, but still maintaining consistency, allows for original ideas to be treated as they are, and rewarded for being so.
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@English-jack.blogspot.com While I am hesitant to admit this, I meant ranking students relative to each other. The unfortunate reality, at least in my experience, is that most teachers/instructors/professors have an idea of where their class performance should be in terms of grade distribution. They base these expectations on, I think, prior experience and past performance of previous classes. Perhaps they are also bullied by institutional administrations... So when a professor tells me s/he expects a normal or bimodal grade distribution, with an average of 75-80% for example, I use rubrics as a tool to assist ranking student marks (percentiles?) to fulfill the expectations my professor as of me as their TA. @@English-jack.blogspot.com "A rubric suggests to me that you are less concerned with the particular answer/response/product arrived at and more interested in its qualities." It is true that I am much more interested in 'how' students arrive at their answer than 'what' the answer is itself. When I read a paper that is well executed with strong understanding of grammar and the like (or in the absence of strong grammar, strong diagrammatic or mathematical skill) it illustrates to me a greater understanding of the material than if the student merely provided the answer explicitly asked by the question. When I mark a mathematical/statistical assignment, I am more interested in the conclusion's interpretation and formulaic processes that are a part of the whole; not just the bottom line. Am I alone in thinking that if a student grapples with the material, but is unsuccessful in deriving the exact, particular, answer, that they should not be penalized for at least applying their best effort in a logical and constructive way? @@@English-jack.blogspot.com"The whole point of a rubric is to make the assessment criterion-based rather than norm-based." I think you do yourself a disservice by not using rubrics to contrast and compare students. This has allowed me countless opportunities to comment on what student's 'should' have done to have received a higher mark. Forgive me if I misinterpreted your use of 'normative', as I am familiar with it in a few contexts... @ Frances - first, sorry again for posting such a long reply... But this place is quite addicting... I absolutely believe I would have developed my own grading scheme or 'rubric' with or without prior exposure. Prior experience, however, has allowed me to integrate aspects of rubrics which I found effective as a student, and leave out ones which could have been better deployed or removed all together. I also strongly believe that it is the TA's job to create a rubric, as they will be the one ultimately marking! However, the professor should be consulted at every step in any rubric's development and be reviewed upon completion; this allows, I think, for the TA and professor to see eye-to-eye on what the expectations from the class are.
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I think your survey is potentially biased, as it neglects to account for TAs who are given the freedom to construct their own rubrics. For the three classes I have TA'd for (2 Phil) and currently TA (Econ) I was told loosely what criteria to look for, but given the freedom to construct my own marking rubric. Constructing rubrics has been very fruitful for me, as it allows me to rank students on a relative scale, and helps me remain focused after grading the same material over and over again! Not to mention, I find that using rubrics potentially provides more feedback to students (i.e. where they went wrong) and allows me to write more constructive comments (for the few students who actually read them to improve in the future...). Looking forward to the results!
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@ Frances - Just to clarify, I was not attempting to suggest that the above definitions were your own. Instead, I was assigning gender to the field of economics and speaking on 'her' behalf. Akin to, I think, when some speak on behalf of 'truth' or 'wisdom'. Perhaps it was too much of a poetic liberty… @ Unintended Outcome - Are you serious? There is no way you actually believe graphs degrade analytical responses, do you? I think Nick Rowe has put it best, if I can recall his Econ 1000 VOD quote correctly: "Economics is best understood as a combination of maths, words and graphs; you need each to succeed in its mastering" What else I recall I paraphrase going forward: Without the use of each (of the above tools) you fail to grasp any economic idea in its entirety. If you master two, and neglect the other, you fail. If you master one and neglect the other two, you fail epically (Nick Rowe CUTV VOD ECON 1000). I think Nick is just about right. @@Unintended Outcome - I'd love for you to expand on what you meant by "definitions by themselves have only the appearance of knowledge." Are you trying to make some kind of epistemological argument here?
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@ Determinant The answer does not need to be “that’s impossible by theory” but instead “not all factors were taken into account which the theory requires”. I understand the chairman of Morgan Stanley to be some position of authority, but that does not mean he is infallible, nor the information provided to him complete. Rather than challenging the foundation of micro theory, which your (Determinant) first comment suggests, Frances instead offers (through the above blog post) an explanation of economic relationships which are true by definition. Since you brought up the topic of philosophy, I think Frances above post is akin to an: “if p then q, p, therefore q” like illustration of economics. Example: “Perfectly competitive markets are, by definition, markets with large numbers of buyers and sellers, in which firms sell homogeneous products. In such a market, no one seller will be able to raise his or her price above the market level - buyers would just go elsewhere. Hence firms in competitive markets must be price takers, and the answer is true.” Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that you are both talking past each other. One (Determinant) attacking the very foundation of economic theory (and the discipline more generally), the other offering support for logical economic deductions which necessarily follow from her particular definitions. Am I missing something here?
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@ Frances - Thank you for the JSTORE link, I have begun reading it. I had no idea that the mother-father-kids model was anything but the norm... I suppose that mass media (e.g. tv, movies, novels, etc) has skewed my opinion once again about reality! Shame on me I suppose... @ Jacques - Thank you for the info regarding Emmanual Todd, I will be sure to research him further after our exam period is over!
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@ France - "Only with the introduction of antibiotics and other health care advances in the first half of the last century did the two-parent family begin to approach a universal norm." What do you base this claim on? From Kristian's limited graph above, it does not appear at all clear to be that the two-parent family has only now become a universal norm. I suspect you have other data which reinforces this claim?
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This article is fascinating... I love any environment where economics and philosophy collide... Neil: "The problem should be dealt with squarely in the high school realm" I agree halfheartedly. Without the basic understanding of excel I obtained in high school, I would not have been able to maintain my small business. As a result I would not have been able to attend University. But my skill in excel was greatly complimented by my training in statistics (Stats 2, Econ 2201/2, etc), so to say that high school training provides the best background, or even the best starting point for a foundation in excel, I think, is misleading. @Frances "spreadsheets are not used much, if at all, except in the grade 12 data management course" I took the grade 12 data management course, and from what I can remember, it was almost exactly like my Econ 2201 (Stats 1) course; albeit Econ 2201 had additional material by the time we got to the ANOVA. Moreover, I think you are incorrect in assuming that high school students are not exposed to excel in any other courses. I distinctly remember: 1) my grade 9 introduction to business class where the whole Microsoft office suite was covered in some detail, 2) grade 11 computer engineering where Visual basics, Excel, PLC programming and other material was covered, and 3) grade 11/grade 12 accounting which (perhaps obviously) relied primarily on the use of excel! However I think your inquiry leaves us with at least one remaining question, briefly touched upon above: should students who choose a more mathematically oriented field of study, say economics, be required to take on a more specialized training in excel to further their understanding of the theoretical concepts they will become exposed too? I think the answer is a definitive yes. (P1.) If (economics) students are required to recollect and review mathematical material, say like introductory calculus and linear algebra (previously Math 1009 and Math 1119 at Carleton), and (P2.) these classes include basically the same material covered in their high school equivalents, save the addition of a few new topics, then (C.) I do not see why a more advanced/specialized training in excel is not also warranted. If the above holds, then I think your (Frances) suggestion of teaching excel "right alongside [the] calculation of mean, median, etc in the intro to stats course" to be appropriate. As I pointed out above, there was a great deal of overlap between my experience in grade 12 data management and that of Econ 2201; at least as similar as any of my university introductory math classes and their high school equivalents/prerequisites.
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@R. E. Cameron - Interesting point, I tend to treat anything on Top Gear as an authority in all things automotive, so perhaps your right about "gender-specific traits" being "very culture-specific". @Peter T - You point out an observation I have also come across, but not so far east. In rural Italy, Amalfi coast to be exact, many of the family run businesses (shops, auto repair, restaurants, etc) I encountered run on a sharp female/male divide whereby the finances and other domestic affairs were managed by the women (wives), while the men (husbands) ran the shops/businesses and interacted with the local economies at large. Does this not represent a more efficient state of affairs, perhaps even a socially optimal one? Given, of course, that women in these environments truly believe that "relaxing the barrier would mean less real freedom and power." @Frances Woolley - "I don't think this has to be either/or." Really? Touching on your point w.r.t. Brothers Brick, can you not also see their work as a creative development rather than a sharp division/battle of the sexes? Doesn't creating specific products which can later be combined with other specific products create the possibility of original innovation? I think Lego is an excellent example of just how this may occur: one may use pieces from a female and a male marketed set to create a completely new design or product (regardless of the authors gender). Or, more abstractly, a paint set sold for young girls, and a paint set sold for young boys; presumably combining the two would offer more breath of colour, more possibilities of detail, but would not each separately also leave something desirable? For me they certainly would, and so in some cases, it should be that products are sold specifically for males and females. Your point earlier on smaller hand drills and other similar products I think reinforces my claim. Lastly, returning again to your potent Lego idea, you wrote that by marketing to specific genders leads to a "limiting, not expanding" outcome. Could you please expand on that idea, as I am unsure I understood it fully.
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Frances: I am not sure I fully understand the telos of your entry, but I did want to stress that more choice, whether segregated or not is usually a good thing, no? In this way I disagree with your (Frances’) above reply "Ryan - I agree with you - real choice - as opposed to the same product repackaged - is a good thing." In my view, an existing product, but repackaged and remarketed to a different demographic/segment often breathes new life into the product itself, and arguably promotes its future development (if necessary). I can think of no greater instance of this than the very nature of blogging itself! Once a product used and maintained primarily by technically inclined I.T. people (mostly men?) who wished to stay 'in-the-know' so to speak. Fast forward to blogspot, typepad, wordpress, and you begin to see the product segregate into a more and more diversified markets; this "mainly Canadian economics blog" being no exception. Also, if I may also touch on your comment about the auto industry, I think men in general have more of a love affair with their cars then women do, especially those of us who take the time to get to know them (sounds weird I know!). What I mean is those who tinker with their cars, as my friends and I do, learn to appreciate them and become more attached to them than those who don’t; at least this is how it is in my experience. Moreover, on average I feel that men are more likely to get-down-and-dirty in repairing their cars. Perhaps men are simply more cheap/fugal with their money and cannot admit that the prescribed repair is actually worth eighteen-hundred hard earned dollars; but more likely, I think, it is because many men seem to have a natural fascination to learn how cars work. Lastly, and I may be completely off base here, but have you ever met a woman who named their car? Or treated it with some kind of physical/personal identity? I haven’t. But almost every young guy I know does, especially those who ‘take her to the shop’ or ‘wash her’ or have picked up a new x y z for ‘her’. Cars and their accessories are the big toys for boys, and I don’t see any problem with it being so.
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To begin, I apologize if I unintentionally highjack any ideas from the above article/comments, or misrepresent them in any way. With so much thought provoking content above, I feel it will be difficult to be wholly original in my own response, but what follows is my humble attempt: The above article addresses, albeit in a roundabout way, a problem I identify with the university as a western institution. It begs the question, I think, as to why students study at university in the first place? Or rather, in effect, what is the purpose of university study? The most common place answer seems to be “to prepare students for the workforce” or from the student/parent perspective “well, a BA looks good on a resume”, but to what end? Silly question, I know, for the end is likely some “better” job (meaning also ‘better’ paying) than one would otherwise obtain without having attended university. But how exactly do the employers determine if the students they hire are well suited to perform in their company? In general, I suspect employers of university graduates desire skills of autonomy, along with some brand of independent problem solving ability; but how does an employer assess such skills from a mere CV? Perhaps, if my below reasoning holds, this assessment can be measured by the exposure a given applicant (graduate) has to particular types of professors, and the relationship she fosters with them. Let me explain: for me, the above distinction between a research professor and teaching professor is perhaps an unintentional fallacy of bifurcation, as it neglects to include what I find to be an equally important professor: the technical professor. These three types of professors, which I will define shortly, present three purposes, ends, or reasons for anyone to study at university; reasons which seemingly descend in a lexical priority. For our purposes the technical professor is she who concerns herself with what we may call “productive sciences” (what we call today technology). That is to produce things, to make, improve or repair material things in the world (Kreeft 34). The teaching professor is she who concerns herself with more “practical sciences” in so far as she improves student attitudes and behaviours and who helps “students see the world in a different way” (Woolley). The final, and arguably most desired professor, is the research professor, who as her name suggests is concerned primarily with the “theoretical sciences”, defined perhaps as the study of truth, or rather of ‘knowing’. The research professor’s pursuit is not done for the sake of influencing others, as in the case of the teaching professor, nor does she pursue her theoretical interests to necessarily produce, improve or otherwise change the world, as the technical professor might. Instead, her pursuit is seemingly nobler: it is for contemplation itself; to perfect her own understanding, and in so doing makes her pursuit all the more human than the other two. This view, I confess, is highly sympathetic to Aristotle’s view on how to live a good (virtuous) life, but I do believe there is some truth to it, please allow me to continue: In my limited experience, those outside the world of academia, outside the ivory towers so to speak, have either admiration for the professor occupation, or revile it with ignorant comments like “oh you only work 8 months of the year”, or “what do you actually do on sabbatical anyways?”. But for those who do at least have some respect for the honour awarded by the title PhD, there seems to be an ordering to which this admiration is placed, a lexical ordering in terms of which professor has earned the onlookers (outsiders) admiration the most. Returning to our three types of professors, it seems to me that the when the onlooker (outsider) observes the technical professor, they may understand her plight, her passion to change the world, to improve it in some materialistic way, and as a result admire and respect her efforts. Observing the teaching professor may also induce these aforementioned thoughts, as she may be seen as one who inspires others to perfect, improve or change the world, but ultimately, I feel she will be admired for more than this; she will be respected because she changes the lives of those study from her, not just the world in which they operate. Lastly, the research professor, I think properly understood, is the apex of admiration in the world outside academia, not only because they are awarded the biggest offices (I assume?), the highest positions, or the largest paychecks, surely these are but consequences of attaining such a profession. Instead I believe research professors are most likely to be admired and respected, and as a result well-paid, because they have the freedom to pursue their own path of contemplation, or theoretical research; they get to perform, practise and perfect what it means to be human in the most literal sense: to (critically or otherwise) think. Returning to my original thesis above, the hiring company which has only a CV to judge a given applicant (graduate) may reasonably be interested applicants who were exposed to one particular type of professor over another. While this may be true in specific cases, e.g. skilled-trades, in my opinion the more general case proceeds as follows: if a student adequately demonstrates that they were able to establish a working relationship with a research professor, as well as maintain her degree and other extra circular activities, then I suspect she will be more desirable than her colleagues who were merely taught technical procedures, or became inspired through instruction. I reason that she is more desirable because by establishing a relationship with the research professor, the student likely participated in increased social contact, exposing her to departmental politics and new ideas she would not have otherwise obtained, and likely forced her to interact within the natural hierarchy that exists between the student and professor dynamic. I think that this increased social contact, exposure to departmental politics, as well as experience in the relationship between professor and student, parallel well with the modern demands of many industries, at least where business relationships depend upon social ability, understanding of company politics, and the relationship between the boss/manager and employee dynamic. In so far as the above reasoning holds, it would appear that our graduate, who established a relationship with the research professor, is a head of the pack so to speak. These previous chains of reasoning, some may argue, equally apply to both the technical and teaching professors; but for me both have at least one significant drawback: neither may arguably embody the level of autonomy and critical thinking ability that the research professor does, and so may be less likely to impart such skills upon the student. This student then has an incentive to pursue only that professor whose maximizes their likelihood of future success, and hopefully, genuinely enjoys the professor’s research interests and personal character. Ultimately I argue that research professors are held in higher esteem not only by those who look upon them as outsiders, but also by those who work from the inside, from the bottom-up (undergraduates specifically); as research professors represent individuals who possess that most human of attributes: critical thinking, and at a supposedly advanced and refined level. This asset/attribute, at least as I understand it, remains invaluable to most institutions in the private (although perhaps not public…) sector. If my above reasoning is not too riddled with holes, then I humbly submit it as my account for why research holds higher status than teaching in the western university. Problems which I fail to address at least include: the apparent disparity between authentic or ‘good’ research vs. “bad” (as commented on above), the reasoning behind the general profile for which employers use to hire graduates, the defence for why research professor are allegedly more desirable for befriending and interacting with, among others… Kreeft, Peter. "Why Study Philosophy and Theology?" 2012. The Newman Report. Woolley, Frances. "Why is research higher status than teaching?" 2012. Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.
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Feb 28, 2012